Going back into the archives a bit for this one, and by back a bit I mean Summer last year! Been meaning to get this post done for ages but it kept getting put on the back burner as new adventures came along and this one became somewhat forgotten. Sorry zoooooo, I love you really….well mostly……
Zoos are a quite divisive feature, on the one hand they’re a great way to learn about exotic animals and are definitely a great day out if you have kids. Check out this great post from a fellow Pardubice expat who brought her kids there and had a great time. On the other hand, many see them as cruel and an unnecessary relic of the Victorian era where wild animals are caged up and lose everything that makes them majestic and fascinating creatures.
I’m a little in the middle myself as of course the conservation work that many modern zoos (including this one) do is to be applauded and in many cases is absolutely essential to the survival of rare and endangered species. The irony being it’s our fault they’re endangered. The thing that really bothers me about zoos is you can tell the animals aren’t happy, particularly if they are kept in a small enclosure with little naturalistic landscaping. Primates seem to be particularly effected by artificial environments and I remember being saddened by the sight of the silver-back Gorilla in Dublin zoo every time we visited as kids and again as an adult when I went in to take photographs or for a day trip with Sinéad. He looked genuinely depressed, sitting still and just staring blankly in to space with his head in his hand.
They have a brand new enclosure for the gorillas now and the difference in the male’s behaviour is night and day! He moves around all the time now and interacts with his fellow gorillas and just seems much more like you’d expect a wild gorilla to behave.
Sorry getting way off topic here and the pros and cons of zoos could fill volume after volume of books, blog posts and discussion forums so let’s just crack on with this particular zoo and our lovely day out there. 🙂
We visited the zoo as part of a really awesome day trip where we visited Josefov and Kuks while on the way to the zoo. One day, three fantastic locations….good times. We arrived at the zoo in the afternoon at the end of the trip and had a few hours to wander around the many enclosures as well as go for a safari trip….well the closest you can get to a safari chip in the Czech Republic at least.
I think the owners of this zoo may have had something to do with the management of Jurassic Park as we saw not one but two instances of escaped creatures while we were there. One was fairly harmless and involved a stick insect or two that had somehow gotten out of their tank and were happily strolling around the lid. The other…..the other was a mix between absolute horror and comedy gold you just couldn’t write. We were sitting in the sun outside the insect house when I noticed a HUGE moth on the wall outside the entrance. It looked far too large to be a native species so I got up to investigate if another had managed to claim its freedom. As I edged my way towards it, a little sparrow hopped down off the table next to me. “Oh he’s just as confused as I am” I thought. “What an inquisitive little chap he is, he’ll probably verify it’s not native and then fly off to let the zookeeper know, yes that’s what he’ll d……OH NOOOO!!! WHAT ARE YOU DOING LITTLE SPARROW!?!?. In the blink of an eye the sparrow hopped over, grabbed the moth (Which was almost equal in size!) and flew off with it. Cue gasps of horror (and some laughter) from us as we realised we may have just witnessed a really rare species of moth become lunch for the happiest Czech sparrow ever.
Other than those two jailbreaks there were no other escapees or exotic lunches that day as we wandered around the zoo. It’s quite an impressive zoo actually, although some of the exhibits were rather small and dated with the aforementioned sad animal syndrome on display. That’s what made the safari part so impressive….it was huge! Several species of herbivores had ample room to graze while tour buses with the windows removed drove lazily past. It was tricky to see much if you didn’t get a window seat but it was still pleasant to see such large open spaces in this part of the zoo and hopefully they’ll be able to offer the more confined creatures more roomy living space in the future.
As I’ve said zoos aren’t for everyone but alas they have become an essential tool in the fight to prevent rare species from becoming extinct. The quality of zoos has definitely improved in recent years as the focus has changed to active breeding programmes and conservation efforts instead of just a showground for exotic animals. Of course that element is still there but there’s signs of progress. I still get that same warm fuzzy feeling going to the zoo now as I did as a kid, there’s something exciting about seeing animals you’ll probably never see in the wild. I could watch the lions for hours and the primates forever, they’re so fascinating to watch.
I’d definitely recommend a trip to Dvůr Králové zoo. It’s a nice day out, especially for families, there’s plenty to see and despite the occasional small enclosure and moth genocide, the animals seem well looked after.
And now….MEERKATS!!! 🙂